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A new oral antiviral drug for COVID is being tested in humans – can it make a difference?

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23.09.2021

Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, we still need drugs to treat COVID. Even people who have been double vaccinated stand a small chance of getting COVID and ending up moderately or even severely ill. There are drugs to treat COVID, but they have to be given in hospital.

One promising drug that could improve things is molnupiravir, an antiviral that’s moving into the final stages of testing in humans. Researchers are hoping it can be used both to treat and prevent COVID. Importantly, it can be taken as a pill – meaning people wouldn’t need to be hospitalised to receive it.

This drug reduces the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, to replicate. It works by mimicking one of the building blocks of the virus’s genetic material. When the virus reproduces, it builds a new copy of its RNA, and the drug ends up being incorporated into it.

When the virus then reproduces, the molnupiravir causes mutations to accumulate in the virus’s RNA, which increase every time it replicates. Eventually, this causes an “error catastrophe”, where excessive mutations stop the virus from being able to reproduce altogether, and it dies off.

So far, a small trial has looked at the effects of molnupiravir in 202 COVID patients (not in hospital) who had started having symptoms. Participants were randomly allocated to receive........

© The Conversation


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